Saturday, May 29, 2010

Forbidden Fruit

Just in time for summer, Burger King has dived into the pit with Fire-Grilled Ribs.

I had to find out for myself whether they would be teddy bears or the real stuff. Not desiring to invest very much into this venture, we bought 3 ribs.

BK Ribs Packaging
3 rib package

Are they processed?
It's real pork meat with bone, not ground then reconstituted.

How do they taste?
They aren't bad. The ribs are on the salty side and have a smoky, charred flavor. They taste better than a lower-end restaurant that does not specialize in ribs. Obviously, they don't taste like ribs that come from a rib joint.

They look dry. Is it tough?
They are fairly moist, not slippery with grease. I wasn't offered barbecue sauce, so I didn't know this was available to smother over the meat until I saw images of others' ribs. I am not a saucy kind of gal so the availability didn't matter but I'm sure those who enjoy their meat messy would prefer the sauce. They aren't fall off the bone or alien-meat (think: beef broccoli), but they are tender and appropriately textured.

How much do they cost?
The ribs are rather diminutive and cost around $1 per morsel at $2.99 for 3, $5.69 for 6, and $7.19 for 8 ribs. The meatier rib took around 4-5 bites for me to finish.

Would I eat it again?
Yes, but. While they are pricey for what you get, I have never been to a rib joint that sells ribs by the rib. If you want to scratch that smoked meat flavor itch and don't want to walk out spending $20, this may work. It won't win any rib cook-off contests, but you could do a lot worse.

I'm also restricting my caloric intake. Those 3 ribs would probably cover 1-1/2 meals if not more.

BK Ribs
Did you see the char on dem bones?

I am surprised BK's general counsel gave the green light to serve bone-in ribs with the hubbub some pediatricians are stirring, advocating changing hot dogs because they are a choking hazard. These bones will probably be on their target soon if it becomes a regular menu item (which I doubt).

Teddy bears?
When I was a junior or senior in high school, our cafeteria began serving meat patties with a layer of maroon-colored sauce for lunch. I didn't know what they were so I called them teddy bears because they looked like teddy bears.

teddy bear
Baby bear

Okay, maybe I embellished on the color a bit. They were actually a little greyer. I could have spent hours locating a paper copy of the school menu but I didn't really care. I enjoyed the Chinet cardboard plate textured slab of meat swabbed with the slightly sweet and smoky sauce. At that point in my life, I had not had American-style ribs.

While talking with Bug 2 years ago about school lunches, he reminisced about the riblets he enjoyed (not loved, enjoyed). I recall nodding blankly, no real clue what he was talking about but happy that he enjoyed those riblets. I figured they were tiny ribs, like piglets are to pigs.

He apparently detected that I got lost along the way and began to describe the dish. Ground, formed meat patties with char lines doused in barbecue sauce. I placated him and responded with a nod.

Later that week, we walked along the freezer aisle at a grocery store. Bug pointed to a box of riblets, a flat patty, with little protrusions along its length mimicking ribs and bones. I blinked a few times. The #-shaped meat evoked a long buried memory of eating teddy bears in school 20+ years earlier.


- Cassaendra

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wie gehts?

We've been to Das Schnitzel Haus 3-4 times in the past 5 years and had some excellent dishes like their beefy and tender goulash, springy spaetzle, and crisp schnitzel.

A few weeks ago, we noticed a banner advertising their buffet weekdays from 12:00 - 15:00 for $7.99. Yeah, yeah, buffet, heckle, yuck, ptoo.

I happen to enjoy checking out buffets, especially ethnic buffets. Since I took a day off work, we decided to check out their buffet offerings. On the way there, I prayed for their beef goulash which I've enjoyed each time I've eaten there. Their goulash is served as a luxuriant, concentrated gravy with beef chunks. The beef is tender and probably slow cooked to achieve that flavor.

We strolled in optimistically at 12:05. I was disappointed to see a 6-7 feet long buffet table and thought it wasn't promising. Bug mumbled, "That's it?" Of course, the buffet was not ready.

Instead of walking out, we stuck it out (obviously). After ordering our drinks, we walked up and discovered that the space was utilized well. Instead of placing a large pan of a single item in each vertical slot, there were 2-6 horizontal containers in each pan slot.

Cold offerings from my rather spotty recollection were:
- a salad bowl of iceberg lettuce and 2 salad dressings, ranch and a vinaigrette
- pickles: cauliflower, cucumber, peppers, and another
- mixed salads: bean salad, a creamy salad, potato salad, coleslaw, and another

While we ate our salad, the hot dishes were brought in. The pickled cauliflower packed a vinegary punch while the cucumber was subtle.

Chicken dumpling soup was being served by our server along with bread baked on the premises. The soup tasted like homemade chicken noodle soup. The addition of well made dumplings to (almost) any soup makes a great soup exceptional. Along with fresh baked bread, this could have been my entire meal.

We returned for our entree. The pans were covered so it was fun discovering what surprises were under each hood.

In the warm section:
- wide egg noodles
- mashed potatoes
- kartoffel küchle

- kraut wickeln
- schnitzel
- beef goulash (hooray!)

- sauerkraut
- green beans with bacon and other stuff

Das Schnitzel Haus2
Bug's plate (schnitzel, goulash, cabbage wrap, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut)

Bug was a little disappointed that spätzle was not available and scooped some mashed potatoes. I raked some of the creamy mashed potatoes from his platter, ooh'ed over them, and quickly reached for more, but stopped short of swiping more. It wasn't because I was afraid of his scowl. I could have easily inhaled a tub of the buttery goodness in 5 minutes but I am limited to 1200 cal per day.

We've had Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cabbage rolls before but kraut wickeln (cabbage wrap) was new to us. While it looked like a cabbage roll on steroids, it wasn't quite as simple as that. Both of us loved the smoky, peppery, and garlicky meat stuffing and whispered back and forth what we thought this dish comprised of. According to their menu, the filling is made of beef, pork, bacon, and rice with paprika and garlic, and wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves.

The sauerkraut was made in my favorite way, a little smokey, slightly sweet, sour, and not very crunchy. It was definitely not plopped from a bag or can.

Schnitzel is left in smaller amounts, I believe perhaps optimistically, to control the quality. Each time I've had their schnitzel, it's crispy and crunchy, whether they were made to order or in the buffet line.

Das Schnitzel Haus
My plate (cabbage wrap, potato pancakes, schnitzel, goulash)

The crisp kartoffel küchle (potato pancakes) were a touch garlicky and peppery. I could not work there, at least not during the lunch buffet. It would be agonizing not being able to graze on those medallions every time I passed them.

I was sated at this point. Bug went up for another serving and brought back mashed potatoes, egg noodles, goulash, kraut wickeln, and schnitzel. His eyes were bigger than his belly but he managed to finish his plate.

The server was peppy and came around to refill our drinks before they ran out. This is the kind of food that fills you up quickly and keeps you filled until the next day.

I'm taking a couple of days off in the near future. You know where I'll be come lunchtime!

- Cassaendra

Das Schnitzel Haus
5728 Pearl Rd
Cleveland, OH 44129-2850
Tel: (440) 886-5050

Monday, May 10, 2010


Bug enjoys interesting food preparation, Mexican food, especially enchiladas, and Rick Bayless' show, One Plate at a Time. One night, he caught an episode that showed Bayless preparing enchiladas using a green sauce made with spinach. Yes, spinach!

Enchiladas Dish2
A dish of enchiladas Popeye would love

Adapted from Rick Bayless' recipe, Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style

1-1/2 lb boneless chicken breasts or your preferred chicken pieces to yield 3 c of shredded chicken
chicken broth (~4 c)
1 Tbsp adobo seasoning
2 fresh poblano chiles
2 c chicken broth
2 c milk
6 Tbsp butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c flour
1 c chopped spinach leaves
12 corn tortillas
vegetable oil
Mexican cheese
cilantro or parsley (optional)

1. Place chicken in a pot and add enough chicken broth to generously cover completely (at least an inch above) and 1 Tbsp adobo seasoning. Bring to boil then simmer for 1 hour. Meanwhile, the rest of the dish can be put together or this step can be done earlier. Chicken should be removed from the pot and the meat chopped and shredded.

Store bought [Goya] adobo seasoning was used. I've seen several adobo seasoning recipes online. The standard blend utilizes paprika, black pepper, onion powder, Mexican oregano, cumin, chile powder, and garlic powder. Some recipes may add salt, MSG, achiote (annatto) powder, brown sugar, and/or saffron.

2. Roast poblano chile then set aside.
a. Preheat oven to 425°F or use the broiler, setting the rack 4-5 inches from the heat source.
b. Place chiles on a baking sheet lined with foil, then place into the oven for ~20 minutes or in the broiler for ~10 minutes, until peppers darken or appear blistered.
c. Remove from oven or broiler when ready and wrap the chiles in foil for 10-15 minutes or when the peppers are cool enough to handle.
d. Remove the blackened skin by gently rubbing; cut open to remove the seeds and stem, then rinse. If chiles are hot, i.e., high Scoville scale, please use gloves.

3. In a saucepan on low heat, add milk and chicken broth. Make sure the milk does not scald.

4. In another saucepan, melt butter. Turn heat to medium, add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or when the garlic becomes aromatic. Increase heat to medium-high and slowly add flour. Stir until fully incorporated.

5. Add the chicken broth mixture to the flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for a few minutes, then set aside.

6. Add chopped chiles, spinach, and pour approximately half of the flour-broth mixture into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour blended mixture back into the sauce pan with the remaining flour-broth mixture. Stir. Salt to taste.

7. Warm tortillas in your desired manner (oven, stove top, microwave oven).
Stovetop method: Heat a skillet and add 1-2 c of vegetable (neutral) oil. The oil just needs to be warm, not screaming hot. With tongs, quickly submerge each tortilla into the skillet for a few seconds then remove. Stack tortillas and cover so they remain warm.

8. Heat oven to 350°F. Add 1 c of the spinach sauce to the shredded chicken, then mix. Spread 1/4 c of the spinach sauce along the bottom of a 13"x9" baking dish. Roll shredded chicken into the tortilla so they are cylindrical, open on both ends, and place them in the baking dish with the tapered, sealed end down so they are tightly adjacent to one another. Spread another layer of the spinach sauce over the layer of enchiladas, scatter a layer of cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro. If you are averse to the flavor of cilantro as I am, parsley should be fine.

Ug ug ug ug!

Bug had made more shredded chicken to make flauta. Instead of baking the rolled tortilla, he deep fried them in vegetable (neutral) oil using tongs to hold the end together for a minute to seal, after which he flipped the flauta and cooked the other side.

Bug's prior experiments making flauta were unsuccessful because the tortilla would split. Quickly frying them helped immensely.


The shredded chicken was seasoned well, thanks to the adobo seasoning, and moist. Despite being cooked for over an hour, it wasn't bludgeoned into mushy nothingness. The spinach sauce was surprising. I wouldn't have guessed spinach was in it. The thick texture and color could have fooled me that it had avocado. I can't wait to have this again!

- Cassaendra

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Diner

We've passed The Diner's stainless steel facade numerous times on the way to Miles Market during the day and noticed it busy each time. When we walked into the black and white tiled "dining car" at 7:30 p.m., after buying our weekly stock of vegetables and fruits at Miles Market, I wondered if their dinners weren't as popular as their daytime menu with the seats mostly vacant. Did we miss the early Friday night dinner rush of families, early bird special seniors, or singles ingesting some fat and carbs before going home to prepare for a night out?

We were given a professionally printed colorful menu. Printed in large lettering, it announced that breakfast is served all day. The menu items are what one would expect at a diner like burgers, tuna melt, and grilled cheese. Bug ordered the Cheesesteak sandwich ($9.99), while I ordered a Reuben ($8.99).

While waiting for our meal, my attention was drawn to our black tabletop with some grease smudges and cup rings. Our paper napkins had splotches of red sauce, and my paper table mat had grease stains. Otherwise, it was a fairly clean restaurant.

To take my mind off of the table, I noticed that The Diner is connected to Pete'Zeria, a pizza (surprise!) take-out restaurant. Business seemed brisk as I watched SUVs pull up every 5-10 minutes and people returning with stacks of sheet pizzas.

The din of the Cavs quarter final game drew my attention for a few seconds. I looked up to see the Cavs ahead of the Celtics by ~30 points. I mumbled to Bug that I probably cursed them by laying eyes on the screen.

My eyes wandered over to an advertisement for their early bird special from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Seven dishes are offered with dessert for $7.77.

Off along the far wall, past the wrap-around counter with the swiveling round stools, was their specials board. I could sense Bug's disappointment when I rattled off the specials and came upon Swiss steak. This was when I noticed French onion soup ($4.49)!

I despise onions. However, I've just become aware of an ironic compulsion -- ordering French onion soup on my initial visit to a restaurant. The onion hatred is really directed at onions that haven't been completely cooked through.

After about a 20 minute wait our order arrived. The cheesesteak sandwich was served as two sandwiches with fries and a pickle. The beef with onions and peppers were lightly seasoned and dry. For the size of the rolls, the filling appeared a bit scant which worsened the situation. Bug would have been better off placing all the meat in one bun. He was visibly disappointed and annoyed.

The Reuben was good. The rye bread, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and corned beef harmonized well with one another where no one flavor outdid the other. Bug preferred more sauerkraut and cheese for a bigger zing and oomph. The rye bread was grilled so it was perfectly crispy and greasy, which isn't my preference typically. I felt like be nice to the kitchen by not making any special requests. It was my good deed for the day. The corned beef was very lean and thick-cut. I prefer my deli meats sliced wafer-thin.

The crispy twice-fried french fries were a beautiful shade of sienna. I would have been perfectly pleased to eat only the fries. A big, big bucket of them. The seasoning was reminiscent of Arby's curly fries, but 10x better. They must be 10x unhealthier. Nothing this good can be healthy.

What was utterly disappointing was the French onion soup. It came to the table in a small brown crock with a thick layer of gooey cheese. When I stirred the soup, it was rather sludgy since the bread had soaked up a lot of the liquid and the onions were slightly crunchy. The flavor of Thanksgiving dressing (sage) ran over, reversed, and over again, then stomped over the soup.

The menu prices and service were all right. Everyone was cordial. At times, I wondered if the kitchen was shared with the pizza place because of the odd delays.

It wasn't a horrible experience, but with so many restaurants in the city, there isn't much compelling us to return, especially since Shinano, the only decent Japanese restaurant in the region, is a minute away.

- Cassaendra

The Diner
28149 Miles Rd
Solon, OH 44022-2139
Tel: (440) 248-6669

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